Banks had just $16,000 when he died, caregiver’s lawyer says (IL)

Ernie Banks had assets of just $16,000 when he died last month, according to a lawyer for the caregiver at the center of the bitter dispute over the Cubs’ legend’s will.

But Banks’ widow “just wants to know what happened” to “Mr. Cub’s” wealth, her lawyer said.

During a brief but heated court appearance Tuesday morning, Cook County Probate Court Judge James G. Riley tried to cool tempers by ordering Banks’ live-in caregiver and agent, Regina Rice, to provide more detailed documentation about Banks’ assets within 30 days.

The ugly fight over the beloved Cubs icon’s estate was triggered when, just three months before he died, the ailing Banks signed a will that left all of his assets to Rice — a will his family learned of only after he died.

Rice says she was Banks’ trusted confidante and that he wanted her to have everything. But Banks’ estranged wife, Liz Banks, and his sons say they are “suspicious” of Rice, who they believe took advantage of Banks by coercing him into signing the will.

In court Tuesday, Liz Banks’ attorney, Tom Jefson, said that he was concerned that Rice’s attorney, Linda Chatman, estimated Banks’ estate was worth just $16,000.

“There’s no allegation of fraud or embezzlement,” Jefson said. “We’d just like to know what happened.”

Chatman said that the $16,000 figure was just a preliminary estimate, but that the real value in Banks’ estate was in the rights to his image and likeness.

Rice, who wore her trademark large-framed glasses in court and carried a Louis Vuitton handbag, declined to comment after the hearing.

She earlier this month angered Banks’ family by posting on Facebook a photograph of a bottle of champagne she enjoyed at a spa just eight days after Banks was buried.

The judge ruled Tuesday that until the case is resolved, Rice can’t sell any of Banks’ assets without prior court approval.


Banks had just $16,000 when he died, caregiver’s lawyer says
Kim Janssen
February 24, 2015
Chicago Sun-Times  

Additional coverage:

Ernie Banks’ family surprised by new will, plans to contest it
Art Golab
February 16, 2015
Chicago Sun Times

Three months before he died, an ill and infirm Ernie Banks signed a new will, giving all his assets to a his live-in caretaker and agent, Regina Rice.

At the same time, according to Banks’ two sons and a family attorney, the late baseball great also signed a power of attorney and a health care directive, giving Rice immediate control of his finances and his health care.

It was only after Banks’ funeral that his family found out about the new will.

“My father was ill at the time she had him sign a will and I believe coerced him to give all of his assets to her,” said Jerry Banks, the 55-year-old son of Ernie Banks.

“I find it quite interesting that she did not tell anyone that she had an attorney write up a new will,” he said.

Jerry Banks, along with his twin brother, Joey, spoke out Monday for the first time about the dispute that has erupted in Cook County Probate Court, not only over Banks’ money, but the disposal of his body.

Banks’ estranged wife, Elizabeth, has gone to court to prevent Rice from cremating Banks’ body.

“Our father never told us he wanted to be cremated and we find it very suspicious that Ms. Rice, who claimed that she was taking excellent care of our father, now wants to have him cremated,” Jerry Banks said.

The brothers also were upset to see a video of Rice on her Facebook page taken at a spa eight days after Banks was buried. Rice talked about sipping Champagne and took a separate picture of a Champagne bottle proffered by a waiter.

“Everybody’s in mourning. If your supposed to be the caregiver, long-time associate . . . why are you up in the spa?” Jerry Banks said.

The brothers live in Los Angeles, where Joey works as a teamster in the film industry and Jerry is a real estate agent.

They said that toward the end, it was difficult to talk with their father.

“The phone numbers changed constantly and it was difficult to keep up with what number he was being contacted,” Joey Banks said.

Meanwhile, Rice deflected the brothers’ questions. “She’d get angry and say — I’ve had a long day dealing with your dad, I don’t want to talk about it any more,” Joey Banks said, completing a sentence his brother started.

Rice issued a statement saying Banks was an “intricate part of my life,” for 12 years.

Rice did not address any specific allegations, but said, “It is understandable that Ernie’s family is concerned at this very sad time. However, the record and those closest to Ernie will dispel any iota of concern regarding my relationship with Ernie and his trust in me to carrying out his wishes.”

The Banks’ family attorney, Mark Bogen, said: “We will vigorously fight and contest this will.”

Ernie Banks’ family, caretaker embroiled in estate dispute
Holly Yan and Janet DiGiacomo
February 17, 2015

A caretaker for baseball legend Ernie Banks coerced him into signing a new will before his death, leaving all his assets to her, the Hall of Famer’s family says.

The renowned Chicago Cub died of a heart attack last month at age 83. His death certificate cites dementia as a significant contributing factor to his death, CNN affiliate WGN reported.

Banks family attorney Mark Bogen said Banks’ agent, Regina Rice, had the octogenarian sign a new will three months before his death.

“Our family thought that Ms. Rice was helping our father and watching over him while he was in Chicago,” son Joey Banks said in a statement from the attorney. “However, we have learned that she had him sign a power of attorney, a health care directive and a will giving everything to Ms. Rice.”

Another son, Jerry Banks, said he believes Rice coerced his father when he was ill.

He said that before his father’s sudden death, “we spoke often to Ms. Rice because she made it difficult for us to speak directly to him.

“However, she purposefully never told us that while our father was ill, he signed documents giving her total control,” Jerry Banks said.

Bogan said the family didn’t know of the new will until after Banks’ funeral.

“We will vigorously fight and contest this will,” the family attorney said.

Caretaker: Banks trusted me

Rice issued her own statement, saying she was carrying out Banks’ wishes.

“Ernie was an intricate part of my life for over twelve (12) years. Ernie trusted me to carry out his wishes, some during his lifetime and others after his life. He made me promise to adhere to his wishes and I am determined to do just that,” Rice said.

“It is understandable that Ernie’s family is concerned at this very sad time. However, the record and those closest to Ernie will dispel any iota of concern regarding my relationship with Ernie and his trust in me to carrying out his wishes,” she said.

“I will not participate in any verbal jousting with Ernie’s family or do anything to bring negativity to the legacy of such a dear and honorable and extremely positive man. Ernie would have hated that.”

From Negro Leagues to Presidential Medal of Freedom

Banks started his career in the Negro Leagues, making $7 a day. He later joined the big leagues and became “one of the greatest players of all time,” Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said.

“Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball,” Ricketts said after Banks’ death.

“He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known.”

Six years after his last at-bat, Banks was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. And in 2013, Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian honor.

CNN’s Greg Botelho contributed to this report.